A Recipe for Disaster

June 3, 2007

By: Norm Knochel

I recently saw a clever bumper sticker in farm country that read, “If you like foreign oil, you’ll love foreign food.”

It’s brilliant because it makes you think about something most people take for granted—feeding ourselves.

Unlike Americans, Europeans don’t take dinner for granted because they knew starvation and food shortages after both World Wars. The EU has long enacted policies to protect its domestic farmers and to ensure that there’s enough homegrown food for its citizens.

Today, farmers in the EU receive far more in government support payments than American growers. And even EU’s subsidy levels can’t hold a candle to Japan—another country that’s faced hunger.

It’s not like America has never seen bare cupboards.

May marked the 65th anniversary of rationing during the Second World War. Tales of soup lines and rationing coupons still fill history books and are the subject of bedtime stories by grandparents.

Take sugar for example. Sugar is an ingredient that is used in nearly everything that Americans eat. But back in the ’40s, we didn’t grow much sugar in the United States and depended on other countries to supply us with the sweet stuff.

Such dependence quickly led to shortages after the war broke out, as cargo ships used to haul sugar from overseas were needed for the war effort. Not to mention the fact that shippers were a little reluctant to dodge German U-boats and battleships for a boatload of beets or cane.

Because of severe supply shortfalls, sugar became the first rationed commodity during World War II, and it was the last commodity taken off the rationing list in 1947—some two years after the war’s end.

Following the war, America planted more sugar, but we still hadn’t learned our lesson. When an embargo was enacted in 1962 on the nation’s biggest foreign sugar supplier, Cuba, food manufacturers were again sent scrambling.

It wasn’t until 1982 that Congress created a sugar policy that gave America a reasonably priced, homegrown alternative to unreliable foreign sugar supplies. This policy has worked well for more than two decades, and today, America has a thriving sugar industry.

America has the cheapest, safest, most abundant food supply in the world. Current farm policy is a sweet success story that should be celebrated, not torn down by a handful of sour grapes.

In today’s uncertain world, rule one of national security should be to feed ourselves—especially with headlines appearing every day questioning food safety in foreign food.

We depend on foreign countries to feed our automobiles; we can’t depend on foreign countries to feed our children. Congress should realize that relinquishing control of our kitchen would be a recipe for disaster.

About the Author: Norm Knochel, a World War II veteran, is a lifelong sugarbeet farmer from Linwood, Michigan.